Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb. 12:1-3 NIV)
We are not given a choice regarding the course we will run.
The course has been clearly marked, and we'll see all the signs only if we run with our eyes fixed on Jesus (v. 2). 'Fixed on Jesus”--The only way to stay the course and run the race to the finish is to look away from all else and firmly fix one's eyes upon our Lord. This is no casual glance but an intense concentration on Jesus. We will never need to look for nor seek distractions, for they will always be appearing on our road and before our eyes. It is Jesus we must concentrate upon.
In verse 3, we are told to 'consider him.” This word consider is a term used in calculation. We are invited to take an account of Jesus when we are tiring of the race. He endured opposition that no other human being will know, yet still He stayed faithful and obedient to the Father. Jesus has never asked anyone to endure something over which He has not already gained victory.
We focus only upon Jesus because only He is the 'author and perfecter of our faith.” Jesus is the founder of ALL faith, even the faith of those Old Testament saints who knew of Him in their spirits but not in bodily manifestation. It may put us to shame to realize that many of the Old Testament saints lived lives more devoted to, and intensely focused upon, God prior to the example of Christ than many Christians do today with the life of Christ always available for their consideration.
Jesus not only authors and pioneers the faith we possess, but He also perfects it.
'He trusts in God,” said our Lord's enemies as He hung at Calvary. Ps. 22:8 says, 'He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” The enemies of Jesus and David knew that those two men put their trust in God. Do our enemies know this of us? Do those who would desire to see us fail in our race know that we are fixing our eyes upon the author and perfecter of our faith? Are they aware that we consider Jesus in every aspect of our lives and are firmly committed to staying the course and running the race that has been marked out for us? Or have they come to learn that with a little distraction here, a bit of a nudge there, we can be moved off course and refocus our gaze upon circumstances, detractors, or worldly rewards?
Instead, He 'endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2), and this for the 'joy set before him.”
What kind of joy could be set before Jesus that He would willingly leave His place in Heaven, grow to be a man, allow Himself to be abused by His creation, endure the pain and shame of crucifixion, and finally die? Isaiah gives us the clue: 'Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities” (53:10-11 NIV). The joy is in the knowledge of the upcoming childbirth! 'He will see his offspring.”
Jesus told the disciples, 'A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21 NIV). Jesus knew that the end result of His pain would be the family of God--the Church that would grow to be His bride. He told His disciples of His desire to see His own joy lived in them and that their joy would be complete (John 15:11; 16:20--22, 24). He was speaking to all of His disciples, desiring all of us to share in His work completed on the cross, and the joy that would follow. We see from this that joy in salvation is a social experience; we were never meant to make our faith so personal that we do not share the joy with the rest of the world.
Therefore, Jesus stayed upon the cross and endured its shame.
F.F. Bruce writes, 'To die by crucifixion was to plumb to the very lowest depths of disgrace; it was a punishment reserved for those who were deemed of all men most unfit to live, a punishment for sub-men. From so degrading a death Roman citizens were exempt by ancient statute; the dignity of the Roman name would be besmirched by being brought into association with anything so vile as the cross. . . but this disgrace Jesus disregarded, as something not worthy to be taken into account when it was a question of His obedience to the will of God.”
So the question that we must all ask ourselves is this: 'Are we training for the long run?” Are we willing to 'throw off everything that hinders” so that we may run the course 'marked out for us?” Are we available to the Spirit of God so that He may work His holiness in us, preventing us from falling into 'sin that so easily entangles?” We are exhorted by the author of Hebrews not to 'grow weary and lose heart” (12:3). Aristotle used these words to describe runners who collapsed after crossing the finishing line of a long race. We are reminded once again that the reward goes to those who stay in the race. We must not give up prematurely. We must run to the end.
In order to do this, we must consider Him. When life gets hectic and you lose sight of your purpose, consider Him. When you've run out of answers and don't know what to do or where to turn, consider Him. When hardship surrounds you and the pain of living becomes almost unbearable, consider Him. When the guilt of your sin weighs heavy upon your spirit and you no longer want to carry the burden with you, consider Him. When your existence seems futile and joy has been absent for years, consider Him. When the blessings of health, family, friends, sunsets, puppies, beautiful music, and enchanting poetry no longer stir you, consider Him. Consider the One who created it all and knows how to give good gifts to the creation He died for. Consider the One who joyfully gave Himself that we may joyfully partake in the life He has prepared for us. When you rise and when you sleep, when you go out and when you return, when you laugh and when you cry, when you witness the birth of your firstborn and when you must bury your parents, consider Him. He knows, He cares, He is here, and He desires to bring you to His home at the 'right hand of the throne of God.”